Finishing Your Degree at Home: How it Feels to be a College Student during the Covid-19 Pandemic

Story/Video posted April 29, 2020 in Covid-19 by Rachel Gelfand.

Millions of students throughout the world have been doing all of their schoolwork from their homes in the wake of the coronavirus. My boyfriend Drew and I are among them.

Drew and I lived together in State College and would drive to classes on campus together every weekday, and never imagined that the last semester of college would be one that would take place from his parents' house in Emmitsburg, Maryland. But unfortunately that's been the case. A shelter-in-place order was implemented in Maryland on March 30th, 2020, meaning that nobody in Maryland is to leave their house unless it is absolutely essential to do so.


First image: Tents are set up at a Fairfield, Pennsylvania doctor’s office on Monday around 5pm to test people for the coronavirus. The doctor’s office will not allow anyone in that is exhibiting symptoms and will instead send them directly to the tent when they are approved by a physician for testing. Second image: A sign on US Route 15 in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania on Tuesday at 2pm reminds people to practice social distancing, which has been shown to significantly slow the spread of the virus. Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf has called for the closure of all non-life-sustaining businesses in the state, which has diminished traffic on this highway significantly. #covid19globalview #comm481virus #comm481psu

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Drew and I live together with his mom, Tammy, his stepdad, Dave, and his two dogs Adam and Titan. Drew and his mom have always been very close, as he lived primarily with her growing up. Tammy had already been working from home before the pandemic began, and is now in the process of looking for a new job as her workplace is closing. Her days have been filled with the last little bits of work from her former employer and phone interviews with the few places that remain open and hiring.

She also plans on beginning school in May to finish her bachelor’s degree. So she’s been in the process of enrolling and getting everything together.

Tammy’s days have also been filled with doctor’s visits. In mid-April, she discovered a pain in her lower abdomen that turned out to be appendicitis. She had surgery to remove her appendix and had it analyzed, which has since led to a discovery of a cancerous tumor that has spread to her stomach. Her coming days, even with the world in a pandemic, will be filled with doctor’s visits and likely, cancer treatments.

Drew’s stepdad Dave is a veteran and retired police officer. His days are filled with phone calls to friends and old Western movies. This has been a really difficult transition for Dave, as most of his days were spent with friends at the local chapter of the American Legion. He often cooks and will go to the grocery store just to get himself out of the house.

Drew’s days are filled with schoolwork, video games, and Discord calls with his friends. He is in his fifth (and final) year at Penn State, completing a degree in psychology. Drew has Crohn’s disease, so every six weeks he has been visiting his gastroenterologist in Altoona to get infusions of his medication.

This pandemic has hit him hard, because most of his days were previously filled with in-person classes, nights out with friends, and trips to Harrisburg to visit his long-time best friend. His best friend, who is also in his final year of college, now lives at home in Virginia, and the separation between Drew and his friend is larger. However, they do talk just about every day and have active plans to hopefully go to the beach in the summer if this all lets up.

My days are filled with schoolwork, Animal Crossing, and music. I’m almost done with my final year at Penn State, completing a degree in broadcast journalism. I have spent my time teaching myself new things on the guitar, and have been building my own island on Animal Crossing.

I’ve also been fortunate enough to reconnect with some friends I haven’t talked to in a while, as many people are using this time to connect with others despite not being able to physically be with many people. This transition to an online lifestyle has been difficult for me, as I have bipolar disorder and ADHD, which make it hard to keep my mood where it needs to be and hard to focus on classes with distractions around me at home.

Drew’s family and I are sticking all of this out by spending time together, getting our work done, and trying to make the best of this whole situation.